Get More Smarter on Friday (February 16)

Prepare for some mighty blustery weather this weekend. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Immigration reform efforts didn’t even last the work week in Washington D.C., as Denver7 reports:

The U.S. Senate failed on Thursday to pass procedural hurdles on four separate immigration measures, most of which were aimed at extending citizenship to Dreamers and enhancing security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The failure of the measures came as little surprise Thursday afternoon after another morning of fighting between the White House, which adamantly opposed any measures that were not in line with its own, and the rest of the Senate.

And in the end, the White House’s proposal, which was sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, garnered the fewest number of votes, with just 39 voting to proceed to a final vote.

A bipartisan solution cosponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., which some had said was the most-likely of the four to pass, garnered 54 votes.

All of the proposals needed to clear a 60-vote hurdle before they could proceed to final votes. None of them did.

 

► The Denver Post is calling for state Sen. Randy Baumgardner to resign from office following allegations of sexual harassment and a bafflingly weak response from Senate Republican leadership.

 

► As the Washington Post reports, a younger generation of Americans is now asking why the government won’t do anything to keep them safe:

In the familiar aftermath of America’s latest mass shooting, something new stood out: This time, the kids who survived the rampage on Wednesday were demanding to know why the adults who run the country had not done more to prevent it…

…In the familiar aftermath of America’s latest mass shooting, something new stood out: This time, the kids who survived the rampage on Wednesday were demanding to know why the adults who run the country had not done more to prevent it.

Local officials in the Parkland, Florida region are not at all happy about President Trump’s plans to visit the area in the aftermath of Wednesday’s massacre.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Denver Post: Time for Baumgardner to Resign

Sorry, did you say I should “resign”?

Senate Republicans are really, really, really not dealing well with allegations of sexual harassment against their own members. Today, the editorial board of the Denver Post made a very public call for change in arguing that State Sen. Randy Baumgardner should resign from office. More importantly, perhaps, the Post hangs plenty of blame on Senate GOP leadership:

We are disappointed that Republican Senate leaders — Senate President Kevin Grantham and Majority Leader Chris Holbert — have not taken action against Baumgardner by removing all but one of his committee assignments to at least send a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Instead, Grantham and Holbert ordered Baumgardner to take sensitivity training but then defended their colleague, saying the investigation was full of “inaccuracies, bias, conflicts of interest and inconsistencies.” They offered no specifics, which is unhelpful…

…Sexual harassment has been tolerated for far too long in the Colorado General Assembly and we are disappointed that Republicans in the Senate are choosing to enable those bad actors who would abuse their power at the expense of a professional and civil workplace environment. Whether intentional or not, Grantham and Holbert have also sent a clear message to any potential victims about how their accusations will be treated if they find the courage to speak up.

Amen to that.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 15)

There have now been 18 school shootings in 2018 alone. This year is only 45 days old. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► In his first public response to Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump said that students should feel safe in their schools because, uh, well…

As the Associated Press reports:

President Donald Trump struck a solemn tone Thursday after the deadly school shooting in Florida, describing a “scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil” and promising to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” but avoiding any mention of guns…

…He did not answer shouted questions about guns as he exited the room.

While Republicans continue to say much but do nothing, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy is not mincing words in blaming Congress for sitting on its hands.

This image from CNN.com says everything in one word:

 

Here’s a brief look at what Colorado elected officials had to say in response to Wednesday’s shooting.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Civil Rights Commission: The 800-Pound Gorilla in the Room

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Following a large rally yesterday at the Colorado State Capitol in defense of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, whose funding reauthorization was stalled by a deadlocked party-line vote of the legislature’s powerful Joint Budget Committee, Republicans found themselves once again on the defensive–and they complained bitterly about the overwhelmingly negative attention the vote has caused for the Senate GOP majority in particular. As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports:

Republicans say that their intention was never to defund the commission indefinitely or even put its existence into question, and that they just wanted to have a part in the process and to voice their concerns about the panel.

“It seemed very well orchestrated that they were able to come out and scream about the defunding of the department when that in fact is wholly untrue,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican. “This happens all the time across the street (from the Capitol where the JBC meets) where more questions want to be asked about a particular department before the funding is passed.”

“The end result was never in doubt,” Grantham added, saying what Democrats on the JBC did amounts to a breach of protocol. “… We will have a civil rights commission and we will also have a say in what it looks like.” [Pols emphasis]

FOX 31’s Joe St. George:

“We are committed to the reauthorization of the Civil Rights Commission,” Republican State Sen. Bob Gardner said.

“I believe the make up of the commission is not balanced right now.”

9NEWS’ Anna Staver:

“It wasn’t a no,” [Sen. Kevin] Lundberg said. “It was a no, not now.”

He asked to postpone the vote until after the review process finished, but Democrats on the committee called for a vote.

“I am not prepared to vote for funding until I understand what this commission will actually be all about in the coming years,” Lundberg said during the budget meeting. [Pols emphasis]

One of the most inviolate customs observed between lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly–as we expect it is elsewhere–is a tradition that legislative colleagues do not “impugn the motives” of fellow lawmakers in the course of debate. The goal is to suppress acrimony over hot-button issues by creating a degree of separation between the subject being argued and the people doing the arguing. Of course sometimes the motive is plainly obvious, and that can lead to a stilted debate in which one side is basically hiding behind courtesy to dodge criticism for a distasteful underlying reality that everybody knows.

In the case of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the vote by JBC Republicans to block its funding, the motive everyone is too polite to acknowledge is this: two of the most homophobic senators in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate serve on the JBC. Sen. Kevin Lundberg praised Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for “abiding by the laws of God” when she went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Sen. Kent Lambert said that Colorado’s civil unions law is a “mind-control experiment” intended to force Coloradans “to believe in homosexual marriage.”

How is it that this standoff has been developing for almost a week and not one single mainstream news story has pointed this out? We understand that turnover at local media outlets is quite high and some of these events occurred literally before yesterday, but at some level that’s just no excuse. In our view, you can’t tell the story of three Republicans blocking funding for the Civil Rights Commission without explaining the openly homophobic views of two out of three of them.

The public needs the unsanitized truth about what the Republicans who did this actually believe. There’s no guesswork about what they believe. It’s all on the record. Voters can Google it. And above all, reporters are not bound by the niceties of legislative decorum.

So please. Tell the whole story.

Get More Smarter on Valentine’s Day (February 14)

Because true love is measured by heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Senate Republicans somehow managed to figure out a way to enact the worst possible response to claims of sexual harassment against one of its members. After waiting for weeks to take action on the results of an investigation into sexual harassment claims against state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, Senate President Kevin Grantham orchestrated a truly absurd response on Tuesday. This editorial from the Aurora Sentinel sums up the nonsense well:

It was, at best, one of the most astonishing exhibitions of political tone deafness ever to ring out in the State Capitol. More likely, it was an ill-conceived scheme to diminish or dismiss allegations against Baumgardner, which, as told, border on assault. Grantham issued a scathing letter to the press, in which he tries to undermine the investigation conducted by an outside human relations consultant, without ever offering any details or explanation as to why he denounced the process. Then Grantham issued an edict that he considers “the matter closed.”…

Baumgardner should either offer credible proof of his allegations that his accuser is a liar, or that the investigation was rigged, or he should offer a meaningful apology and resign from the state Senate.

Grantham has shown he hasn’t the temperament, the understanding nor the ethical temerity to lead the Senate chamber. He should step down as president now. [Pols emphasis]

Grantham will have a few more opportunities to screw this up even further. An investigation into an allegation of sexual harassment against Republican state Sen. Jack Tate was made available to Grantham on Monday — the same day that second sexual harassment complaint was formally filed against Baumgardner.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing ahead with a resolution to expel Baumgardner from the State Capitol entirely.

 

► Republicans are losing fundraising battles all across the country as more evidence of a rising Blue Wave presents itself. As Politico explains:

For the third Florida bellwether election in a row, the Republican candidate lost to the Democrat, giving activists and elites in both parties a sense that the GOP’s political grip is slipping in the nation’s largest swing state heading into President Donald Trump’s first midterm election.

Aside from her big 7.4 percentage-point win, what made Margaret Good’s victory Tuesday night over Republican James Buchanan so significant was that it took place in Florida’s 72nd House District. It had been held by a Republican in Sarasota County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12,000, or about 10 percentage points. Buchanan, the son of local Congressman Vern Buchanan, also had an advantage in name ID.

And Trump had carried the district by 4.6 percentage points in a state that he won by just 1.2 points in November.

Have fun with this, “Chairman Gardner.”

 

► Questions surrounding the White House’s coddling of former staff secretary/domestic abuser Rob Porter continue to grow as more evidence suggests the Trump administration made a conscious effort to keep Porter on the job. From the Washington Post:

The White House struggled Tuesday to contain a widening crisis over its handling of domestic violence allegations against a senior official, as it reeled after sworn testimony by the FBI chief directly contradicted what President Trump’s aides had presented as the official version of events.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau had completed a background report on then-staff secretary Rob Porter last July and closed out the case entirely last month. Wray’s account is at odds with White House claims that the investigation required for Porter’s security clearance was “ongoing” until he left his job last week, after his two ex-wives publicly alleged physical and emotional abuse.

The latest bout of turbulence is exacerbated by the administration’s reputation, earned over 13 chaotic months, for flouting institutional norms and misrepresenting facts to the public — a culture set by the president himself.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

BREAKING: Baumgardner Receives Voluntary Wrist-Slap

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank reporting that Democrats will proceed with a resolution to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner from the Colorado Senate.

On the heels of Tuesday’s announcement, Senate Democrats pledged to ratchet up the political pressure, telling the Post they plan to introduce a resolution to expel the embattled Republican.

Under the Colorado Constitution, each chamber has the ability to remove one of its members from office for bad behavior by a two-thirds vote. But it has only happened once — the 1915 expulsion of Rep. William Howland in the wake of a bribery investigation.

Without Republican support, the effort’s certain to fail. Each chamber has “considerable discretion” in determining the procedure for doing so, according to an Office of Legislative Legal Services memo.

—–

A few moments ago, Sen. Randy Baumgardner announced what Republican Senate leadership apparently considers to be closure of Baumgardner’s sexual harassment case. Rather than try to explain Senate President Kevin Grantham’s action–or inaction as the majority of our readers will see it–here’s the letter from Grantham to Baumgardner in its jaw-dropping entirety:

After grudgingly noting the conclusion of the Mountain States Employers Council that the allegation against Sen. Baumgardner is credible, Grantham proceeds to attack the investigation’s “inaccuracies, bias, conflicts of interest, and inconsistencies” before acknowledging Baumgardner’s “voluntarily” stepping down as chair of the Transportation Committee. Apparently Baumgardner is voluntarily taking some manner of “sensitivity training.” No specifics about the investigation that led to Grantham essentially disregarding it have been disclosed.

With this resolution we deem the matter closed.

Folks, this is the worst possible response by Colorado Senate leadership to an accusation of sexual harassment that has been found credible. The magnitude of this error cannot be overstated. Politically, it will wreak havoc on Republicans all over the state, and perhaps beyond to the extent the story makes it into national news. Which is likely: all over the country the issue of sexual harassment is disrupting business as usual in state legislatures, like in Arizona where just last week Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma) was expelled by a 56-3 vote in that state’s GOP-controlled House.

Sexual harassment by men in positions of power in the workplace is an issue that has exploded into the public consciousness since the election of Donald Trump. Although Trump outlasted the army of women who accused him of sexual misconduct and assault long enough to get elected President, the backlash against men who commit sexual harassment his election provoked has dragged a hidden culture of abuse and victimization at every level of society into the light once and for all. Powerful men have had their despicable behavior exposed to the world, and the revulsion the world responds with is in very many cases career-ending.

But not in the Republican Colorado Senate.

When Sen. Randy Baumgardner Harbored a Sex Offender

Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

Back in 2012, FOX 31’s Eli Stokols wrote a bombshell story about Sen. Randy Baumgardner-harboring an unregistered sex offender on his ranch–a story that takes on a new and unsavory pallor in light of dogpiling sexual harassment allegations:

FOX 31 Denver has confirmed that Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, is currently harboring an unregistered sex offender in his home, a decision that has his neighbors questioning his own values.

“This is an ignorant, arrogant individual who has no place in public office,” one of Baumgardner’s constituents wrote in an email to FOX31 Denver. “If you are running on morals, then have some.”

Michael K. Frierson, 32, is registered as living at Baumgardner’s address on Ridgeway Avenue in Hot Sulphur Springs.

He was arrested at Baumgardner’s home on April 12 for failing to register as a sex offender.

Baumgardner paid the $2,000 to bail him out.

In 2016, the Summit Daily News reported how Baumgardner was unrepentant:

Baumgardner seems unfazed by the scathing campaign, calling it “old news.” He added that he found out about Michael K. Frierson being a convicted sex offender at the same time everyone else did, because the ranch does not do background checks on employees. Frierson had been working on the ranch for more than a year, Baumgardner said. After seeing that Frierson had not caused trouble since his 2004 conviction, Baumgardner felt he was right in giving him a second chance.

“It didn’t make a difference last time, I don’t think it will make a difference this time,” he said, referring to his last bid for election. [Pols emphasis]

Gentle readers, we’re going to need to consider the very real possibility that the lack of consequences, political or otherwise, from Sen. Baumgardner’s harboring of an unregistered sex offender in his home might have affected his judgment about the seriousness of sex offenses in general. When news first broke during the 2012 campaign about Michael Frierson, convicted of sex with a minor under the age of 14, the consensus view was that it was a career-ender. But the antipathy toward Baumgardner’s primary opponent Jean White, in part due to low-life mail pieces that targeted White over her support for civil unions, saved Baumgardner from a scandal that by any objective measure should have literally put the “Capital Cowboy” out to pasture.

Now we know that if Jean White had won, women who were victimized might not have been.

And with that, the sobering realization that this is not a game slams home.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 13)

Mr. Vice President, Jesus is on line one. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Top intelligence officials in the U.S. told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee today that they fully expect Russia to attempt to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections. From the Washington Post:

Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said that Russia will continue using propaganda, false personas and social media to undermine the upcoming elections.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts” to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign “as a success,” and it “views the 2018 midterm elections” as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Coats, testifying at the committee’s annual worldwide threats hearing.

His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.

The committee’s Democratic vice chairman faulted the Trump administration for not preparing for potential Russian interference in the 2018 elections.

 

► The White House under President Trump is setting an historic pace…for staff departures. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

More than one in three Trump administration staffers have left the White House in its first year, a pace that far eclipses the rate of departures in the previous five White Houses, according to a study done by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institute.

The pace of resignations, firings and other assorted departures from the Trump White House is twice what it was in George W. Bush’s first year as president and triple that of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

And, it’s not just any sorts of departures; a large number of Trump’s senior-most staff have left in the first year alone.

One in three. Incredible.

 

► Senate President Kevin Grantham continues to sit on his hands regarding sexual harassment allegations in the State Senate. A second formal complaint of harassment against Sen. Randy Baumgardner has now been filed; investigations are complete into an earlier complaint against Baumgardner and state Sen. Jack Tate.

 

$7.1 trillion.

That’s how much the U.S. deficit would expand over the next decade under a budget proposal introduced Monday by President Trump. From Politico:

The result is to exacerbate the nation’s already tenuous fiscal situation. Even if Trump were to get all the spending cuts he wants, plus his ambitious 3 percent growth, deficits over the next decade would total $7.1 trillion. That’s twice what the Office of Management and Budget forecast last spring.

Indeed, the level of red ink could be understated, since all these calculations rest on very favorable economic assumptions and do not include a full accounting of the recent spending increases and additional tax cuts enacted in recent weeks.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Second Sexual Harassment Complaint Filed Against Baumgardner

Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner

Colorado Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham says that he will not be rushed into making “snap decisions” about potential discipline for Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who has now been formally accused of sexual harassment for the second time. As KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reports:

Sen. Randy Baumgardner is now facing a second formal sexual harassment complaint at the Colorado Capitol. Megan Creeden, who served as an intern for another lawmaker, said she filed the complaint “hoping it will trigger something to happen.”

An earlier investigation into allegations against the Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs concluded that “it appears more likely than not that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped a legislative aide’s buttocks four times during the 2016 legislative session.”

Senate leadership has had the investigation’s results for about two weeks. Creeden said she made her complaint official because she has not seen Baumgardner held publicly accountable for his actions.

“All I want is for that behavior to not be something aides and interns and legislators in the future have to deal with and put up with,” Creeden said. [Pols emphasis]

Senate President Kevin Grantham

We wrote yesterday about Grantham’s baffling display of foot-dragging on what has become the most prominent issue of the 2018 legislative session. Birkeland’s latest story, which was published online late Monday evening, is another damning indictment of Baumgardner’s oft-rumored behavior and Grantham’s inexplicable paralysis regarding the problem of sexual harassment under the Gold Dome. It should not be overlooked that news of the second Baumgardner complaint also came on the same day that the Denver Post reported on the completion of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Republican State Sen. Jack Tate.

Senate Democrats have called on Baumgardner to resign from the legislature, but thus far the two-term Republican has maintained his status as a committee chairman and is still the lead sponsor of the top legislative priority for Senate Republicans (quite literally, Senate Bill 1). Grantham said on Monday that he expects to make a decision on Baumgardner’s fate by the end of this week, which would mark three weeks since he first received findings from an independent investigation into the initial complaint against Baumgardner; at this rate, it could be another month before Grantham bothers to take any action regarding the complaint against Tate.

We’ve said it before in this space, but it bears repeating: Choosing not to act is a decision in itself.

Grantham Harassment Footdragging Confounds Political Reason

Sen. Grantham’s extremely tough choice re: Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

The Denver Post’s John Frank updates with the latest word from a standoff in the Colorado Senate over the fate of Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a sexual harassment complaint against whom has been found credible by outside investigators prompting every Democrat in the chamber to call for Baumgardner’s resignation:

Senate President Kevin Grantham, the top Republican in the Colorado legislature, said Monday he expects to make a decision by the end of the week on whether to discipline a fellow GOP lawmaker after a sexual harassment complaint.

The movement follows a week when Grantham faced significant pressure to take action against state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs, who faces a substantiated complaint that he slapped and grabbed the buttocks of a legislative aide multiple times during the 2016 legislative session…

The Senate president blasted Democrats for creating a “partisan circus” with the call for Baumgardner to resign and pushed back against those who suggested he is delaying action in the case.

Senate President Kevin Grantham has reportedly been in possession of the investigative report on Baumgardner’s conduct since the end of January. Predating this latest complaint, however, and as we’ve said numerous times since the General Assembly’s sexual harassment scandal first broke, Baumgardner’s alleged behavior toward women with business at the Capitol was very widespread knowledge for many years prior to 2018. Much like with Rep. Steve Lebsock in the House, it’s impossible for Grantham to argue he had no knowledge of Baumgardner’s conduct because everybody else did.

But unlike Lebsock, Randy Baumgardner wasn’t bounced from his committee chairmanship. He wasn’t pulled off prime sponsorship of Senate Bill 1, the chamber’s showcase transportation bill. While Democrats in the House called for Lebsock to resign as the stories about his conduct snowballed, Grantham and Senate Republicans turtled up in self-defense–continuing to promote Baumgardner in the press, and taking no action whatsoever to protect women at the Capitol from further offense. Women who had potentially been victimized by Baumgardner had no choice but to continue to deal with him if they wanted to work on legislation of his or before his committee.

The two weeks that Grantham has sat on a report validating this most recent sexual harassment charge, with no action taken to even prevent it from happening again, demonstrates nothing short of contempt for Baumgardner’s victim(s). There is absolutely no excuse for stalling action so long after this report was issued–and given the possibility of Baumgardner doing this to another woman, every day nothing has been done is a moral indictment of Republican Senate leadership.

And for Grantham to claim injury from Democrats demanding this situation not be allowed to continue is…astounding.

Trump Infrastructure Plan Lands with Predictable Thud

Great plan, Mr. President

We wrote in this space a couple of weeks ago about President Trump’s plan to beef up America’s crumbling infrastructure by moving around some decimal points in the federal budget and then telling individual states to write big checks to cover the rest of the costs. The White House formally unveiled their big plan today to much puzzlement from people who get paid to do the math on these sort of things.

As the New York Times reports:

The proposal, to be unveiled the same day as Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget, faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where members of both parties — particularly Democrats — are skeptical of any plan that fails to create a dedicated new funding stream to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Lawmakers are also doubtful that such a small federal investment will be sufficient to spur an infrastructure spending boom…

…The odds of such a bipartisan effort coming together in the current political environment are long. White House officials said the new spending would be offset by unspecified cuts elsewhere in the budget, which are all but certain to be roundly criticized by Democrats.

Many infrastructure experts consider the ratio Mr. Trump’s aides are proposing for a public-private plan — essentially creating $6.50 in private investment for every federal dollar spent — to be largely out of reach. And the president plans to leave it up to lawmakers, who are deeply divided on how to finance any infrastructure effort, to decide on key questions such as whether to enact a gas tax to pay for it or slash other types of spending.

The White House is privately conceding that this infrastructure plan isn’t going to go anywhere with Democrats or Republicans on Capitol Hill on account of it being completely stupid. The Trump plan touts $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending, which is magically created from $200 billion in federal funding and is nothing close to what we actually need (The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. needs an infrastructure investment of $4.59 trillion by 2025). In short, as Vox.com writes, the Trump plan contains “no actual source of new money.”

Critics say the Trump infrastructure plan is particularly unworkable in rural communities. Here in Colorado, we know that the Trump proposal isn’t workable anywhere. As John Frank explained in a story for the Denver Post in late January:

“On first blush, it sounds like a token effort,” said Ted Ott, the CEO of Colorado Barricade Co., a specialized contractor that works with construction companies.

The early details suggest the plan includes $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years and puts state and local governments on the hook for 80 percent of highway projects — a reversal of the current ratio. Moreover, the proposal appears to prioritize states with a dedicated state revenue source for transportation money, potentially putting Colorado at a disadvantage.

At least the Trump infrastructure plan won’t require Colorado to sell Denver International Airport. As Politico reports:

The Trump administration’s infrastructure plan released Monday proposes that the federal government consider selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport…

…It also includes the George Washington and Baltimore Washington parkways, the Washington Aqueduct and the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration on the list for “potential divestiture.”

The Trump administration also wants to turn the International Space Station (ISS) into some sort of “orbiting real estate venture” overseen by private industry. Even Republicans such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are dumfounded by the idea of just turning the ISS over to private enterprise considering that the U.S. government has spent nearly $100 billion on the project.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you when Trump tries selling the moon to the Martians.

Senate GOP Reels After Civil Rights Commission Miscalculation

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Marianne Goodland of the former Colorado Statesman reports on the explosive controversy resulting from last week’s vote by Republicans on the powerful Joint Budget Committee against funding for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission–the same commission party to a major case before the U.S. Supreme Court alleging discrimination by a Lakewood cake-baker against a same-sex couple:

The deadlocked vote last week over funding the Colorado Civil Rights Commission continues to draw reaction, as well as a Tuesday rally to defend the agency. Both the Division of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Commission are up for a sunset review hearing on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., the first step in re-authorizing the agency.

In a story first reported Thursday by Colorado Politics, the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) failed to pass a 2018-19 budget for the commission last week with a 3-3 tie vote, split along party lines. For now, that vote means the agency will not be funded as of July 1, 2018.

Reaction to the decision has been swift and angry. Sunday, the Colorado Working Families Party, which backs progressive candidates, issued a statement calling on the Republican members of the JBC to end their efforts to undermine the state civil rights agency.

Goodland directs us to a statement from the Good Business Colorado coalition denouncing last week’s vote, and a rally coming up tomorrow on the Capitol steps:

“The vote to defund the Civil Rights Commission may not seem on its surface to be a business issue — but it truly is because it ensures we have the strong foundation on which we are building the Colorado economy.

“Creating a baseline of respect and dignity for all people is a key component to building Colorado’s economy, one of the strongest in the country. If people don’t feel secure, they can’t work, they can’t spend money, and they can’t support our businesses. The Civil Rights Commission gives our employees, customers, and community the confidence that they can be treated fairly and equally in our state.

“Good Business Colorado urges legislators to quickly repair any harm done to the state’s business reputation by reversing this action to undermine the protection of civil rights.”

The pushback against Senate Republicans over this vote against funding for the civil rights commission appears to have significantly exceeded expectations. Today the Senate GOP released this statement from Senate President Kevin Grantham:

The problem is that nobody is buying this feeble excuse. Two out of three Republican members of the Joint Budget Committee, Sens. Kevin Lundberg and Kent Lambert, are among the most ardently anti-LGBT members of the Colorado General Assembly. Lundberg praised Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for “abiding by the laws of God” when she went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Lambert says Colorado’s civil unions law is a “mind-control experiment” to force Coloradans “to believe in homosexual marriage.”

For these and a host of other reasons that everyone knows, the attempt by Senate Republicans to defend this vote against funding for the civil rights commission has fallen entirely flat. It was Kevin Grantham who appointed two of the most homophobic senators in his majority to the JBC. Everybody knows exactly what is going on here and why. If Republicans really didn’t think this puerile attack on the civil rights commission while the commission argues the nation’s biggest LGBT discrimination case before the nation’s highest court wasn’t going to blow up in their faces, they’re more clueless than even we could have imagined.

Because politically, this is just madness. Colorado Republicans who have desperately been trying to turn over a new leaf with tolerant Colorado voters on social issues like LGBT rights have been set back years by this vote. Every day Grantham and company tries to defend their actions only compounds the disaster. So many elections in recent years have punished Colorado Republicans for obsessing with social wedge issues over practical matters, and they just voluntarily saddled themselves with the same baggage once again.

We are honestly surprised this lesson hasn’t been learned. How many more ass-kickings at the polls will it take?

Former GOP Senator Lashes Out Over Latest Harassment Story

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reports on the latest case of alleged sexual harassment to hit the Colorado Senate GOP majority–this time an allegation from a fellow lawmaker against Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa:

Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, is the latest lawmaker to be named publicly in allegations of sexual misconduct.

His accuser, Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, cited two incidents. She said Crowder pinched her buttocks and made an inappropriate sexual comment. She formally complained on Nov. 30, 2017, and in January an outside investigation found the allegations to be credible.

Under the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy, Senate and House leadership determine the consequences for credible allegations against legislators in their respective chambers. Lontine did not ask for disciplinary action, but outlined next steps she hoped would happen. She asked that he receive sexual harassment training and convey a “sincere recognition of inappropriate behavior.”

At a meeting on Monday (Feb. 5, 2018) attended by Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran, Lontine claimed that’s not what happened. She said Crowder apologized, but did not admit to doing anything wrong…

This latest case brings the number of Republican Senators implicated in the widening scandal over sexual harassment in the Colorado general Assembly to three–but this evening the story took on a far uglier dimension after former GOP Sen. Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield, who has reportedly never even met Rep. Sue Lontine, had what can be best described as a misogynist meltdown over her story on Facebook:

If it was former Sen. Mitchell’s intention to demonstrate sexual harassment by a Colorado Republican, no less than a Republican who served in the upper legislative chamber, mission accomplished. Mitchell’s profane outburst against Rep. Lontine is stunning in its senseless validation of the worst fears and experiences of women in any workplace.

And if Mitchell was hoping to serve as some kind of lightning rod, it didn’t work. The collateral damage for Mitchell’s fellow Republicans from this deplorable behavior will be measurable in votes. Maybe in seats.

For today, though, just shake your head in disgust. And maybe send Rep. Lontine a kind word.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 9)

Look on the bright side — at least you didn’t get traded to Cleveland. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► While you were sleeping, the federal government shut down and then re-opened again. We’ll let the Washington Post take it from here:

President Trump ended the second government shutdown of his tenure early Friday morning, signing a sweeping spending bill hours after Congress backed the bipartisan budget deal that stands to add hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending on the military, domestic programs and disaster relief.

The 240-to-186 House vote gaveled to a close just after 5:30 a.m., nearly four hours after the Senate cleared the legislation on a vote of 71 to 28, with wide bipartisan support.

But action did not come soon enough to avoid a brief government shutdown — the second in three weeks — thanks to a one-man protest from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who delayed the Senate vote past midnight to mark his opposition to an estimated $320 billion addition to the federal budget deficit.

After signing the bill, Trump used his Twitter machine to say that Congress wouldn’t be able to pass a more cost-conscious budget until more Republicans are elected to office. As James Hohmann writes for the Washington Post, hypocrisy abounds:

This is the largest increase in federal spending since the stimulus passed during the depths of the Great Recession. Republicans almost universally opposed that bill in 2009, which cost $787 billion over 10 years, on the grounds that it would increase the debt too much…

Rand doesn’t have a totally clean nose here. He voted in December for the tax bill that will grow the debt by more than $1 trillion over the next decade — and probably more. His pushback is that overhauling the code will generate economic growth to offset the lost revenue.

Because Republicans slashed taxes and are now jacking up spending, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget forecasts that this bill will ensure permanent trillion-dollar deficits. The projected deficit in 2019 is now $1.1 trillion, compared to $439 billion in 2015. (Don’t forget, Trump called for an additional $1.5 trillion infrastructure package during his State of the Union.)

Politico ponders whether we just lived through “the dumbest shutdown ever.”

 

► White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned on Wednesday amid allegations of extensive spousal abuse. As the New York Times reports, top Trump staffers were well aware of Porter’s background but chose to ignore it instead:

White House officials conceded Thursday that they regretted the way they handled accusations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned Wednesday after two former wives publicly accused him of abusing them. But they refused to provide any information about when President Trump’s most senior advisers first learned about the episodes.

Mr. Porter abruptly departed the West Wing on Thursday afternoon, one day after John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, and other senior officials had issued statements defending him and said they would prefer that he remain in his post.

Among the questions he left behind was whether Mr. Kelly and other members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle had been willing to ignore accusations of domestic violence to protect a trusted aide. Raj Shah, the deputy White House press secretary, said that Mr. Kelly had not been made “fully aware” of them until this week. But two people close to the White House said that Mr. Kelly and Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations, as well as Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, had known of the issues since late fall.

Domestic violence allegations had prevented Porter from obtaining a top security clearance, which makes it very difficult for top White House staffers to pretend they didn’t know about Porter’s violent past.

 

► Republicans on Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee are blocking funding for Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission in part because of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that has yet to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans are sad that Colorado businesses are not allowed to discriminate against gay people.

 

► Senate Republicans in the Colorado legislature are almost at the point where they just pretend not to recognize the name Randy BaumgardnerWe will not stand for sexual harassment! We will sit on our hands instead.

Colorado Democrats, meanwhile, are calling on Baumgardner and his mustache to resign from the State Senate immediately.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Kevin Lundberg: Making Colorado Hate Again

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

As the Colorado Independent’s John Herrick reports, yesterday Republicans on the Colorado General Assembly’s powerful Joint Budget Committee took a swipe at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission–the state agency charged with defending Coloradans of all stripes from discrimination in housing, public accommodation, and the workplace:

Republican state lawmakers are effectively shutting down a state agency that is at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case involving the rights of a gay couple who were refused service by a Christian baker.

The Joint Budget Committee held up funding for Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission following a split, party-line vote this afternoon. The decision would cut off state funding for the regulatory agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws on July 1. This drew protests from Democrats and the LGBTQ community.

The agency is fighting a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that pits religious liberties against anti-discrimination protections. It involves the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because he said it conflicted with his First Amendment right of artistic, religious and free speech expression…

Because the Civil Rights Commission is up for “sunset review” reauthorization of its funding this year, notoriously anti-LGBT Sen. Kevin Lundberg of the JBC is stalling the budget appropriation citing the possibility that the division will be allowed to “sunset.”

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who voted against the budget request, wants to wait for the review to play out. The Civil Rights Division, which includes the commission, is requesting $2.1 million for next year.

“My argument against approving their funding today is we need to wait and see what the legislature does with the renewal of the law authorizing the commission,” Lundberg said on Facebook on Thursday.

Because of the commission’s role in the discrimination case currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court of Lakewood cake-baker Jack Phillips, this action by Republican members of the JBC could quickly become a national flashpoint in the post-Obergefell debate over LGBT rights in America. The religious right since that decision has been on a quest to carve out an exemption in anti-discrimination laws for “religious objections.” That’s why Sen. Lundberg drew scorn for his praise of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis after she was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

And that’s what is critical to understand. This is no accident. Colorado Senate Republicans appointed Kim Davis-loving Kevin Lundberg to the Joint Budget Committee where everyone knew he would have this power to put the Civil Rights Commission in jeopardy. It will be the choice of the entire Senate majority to block reauthorization of the Civil Rights Commission in the middle of a U.S. Supreme Court case if they do so, but yesterday’s vote on the JBC makes that all the more likely.

Politically, Republicans are audaciously playing with fire here. The situation is eerily similar to the fight in 2012 in the state legislature over civil unions legislation. Republicans pulled out all the stops to oppose the civil unions bill that year, leading to a widely-publicized spectacle at the session’s end in which Republicans leaders shut down the House to prevent a vote.

And then they lost their asses that November.

With a wave election headed Republicans’ way this year that could dwarf 2012, sweeping the Colorado Senate GOP’s single-seat majority from power and growing Democratic control of the Colorado House even more than the status quo, this is either a Hail Mary to invigorate the religious right or the actions of a party that simply doesn’t care about winning anymore. Or maybe both.

Either way, this is a story that needs a lot of attention–and right now.